East End Brewing Co. eyes Larimer expansion
If one good beer deserves another, there is good news on tap for East End Brewing Co. lovers.
The Homewood craft beer maker is close to purchasing a building in Larimer that will increase its space from 4,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet. The new location at 6580 Frankstown Ave. is less than a mile from the current Susquehanna Street location.
"Where we are now, we're in such a tight box that it's hard to see where the end of the rainbow is," said founder and owner Scott Smith. "With more room, the sky's the limit. ... We'll instantly be able to double our production capacity, and that's just the tip of the iceberg."
The business started selling beer in December 2004 and now has two full-time employees, three part-time workers and a handful of volunteers. It has increased the amount of beer produced by 30 to 40 percent each year, Smith said.
Last year, East End Brewing Co. produced about 1,800 barrels of beer, Smith said. A barrel is 31 gallons.
"And right now, we're turning away business through our distributors," he said.
The 1,700 members of the craft brewing industry in the United States produced nearly 10 million barrels last year, according to the Colorado-based Brewers Association, a trade group for craft brewers.
"Overall, it's continuing to gain market share, and the appreciation of craft beer is growing," said association director Paul Gatza.
East End Brewing Co. has become a force in the local beer market, said Tim Russell, founder of Craft Pittsburgh, a magazine about local craft beers.
"East End's need for expansion is a huge indication of where craft beer is heading in the Pittsburgh area," said Russell of Belle Vernon. "Not only is it a product of Pittsburgh's recent desire for local, quality beer, but I think it's also a result of the way Scott does business. The following he's has built through charitable and community-minded events is really quite admirable."
Smith expects to complete the purchase of the Frankstown building by June 1, though it could take up to a year to complete the brewing facility.
During that time, East End Brewing Co. will continue production with its 10-barrel brew house in Homewood, while buying a custom 20-barrel brew house, three 40-barrel fermentation and cellaring tanks and other equipment for the new building.
The expansion will allow East End Brewing Co. to make more of the beers it produces, including its four year-round selections and four seasonals, and create more large-bottle format beers and one-offs, Smith said.
Last year, the brewery produced 28 varieties of beers. Canning beer also will be possible, as will creating barrel-aged products such as barley wines and sour beers — "more beer-geek beers," Smith said.
A zoning variance is needed for the new building, from local neighborhood commercial to light industrial. A hearing is scheduled May 19 before Pittsburgh's Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Smith has reached out to others in Larimer, including next-door Lincoln Elementary School, to explain how East End Brewing Co. can be a good neighbor.
"We're not planning to run a bar and sell beer by the glass," he said. "We're making a hand-crafted product that draws a lot of positive traffic to the area."